Gabriela Ortiz is one of the foremost composers in Mexico today and one of the most vibrant musicians emerging on the international scene. Her musical language achieves an extraordinary and expressive synthesis of tradition and the avant-garde; combining high art, folk music and jazz in novel, refined and always personal ways. Her compositions are credited for being both entertaining and immediate as well as profound and sophisticated; she achieves a balance between highly organized structure and improvisatory spontaneity. Although based in Mexico, her music is commissioned and performed all over the world.
Ortiz's music has been commissioned and played by prestigious ensembles, soloists and orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kroumata percussion ensemble, Amadinda percussion ensemble, Kronos Quartet, Dawn Upshaw, Sarah Leonard, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Pierre Amoyal, Luis Julio Toro, Tambuco percussion quartet, The Mexican University Philharmonic Orchestra, La Camerata Chamber Players, Mexico City's Philharmonic Orchestra,Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela, and BBC Scottish Symphony, among others.
Recent premieres include: Unicamente la Verdad (her first opera) with The Mexican National Opera Company, Altar de Piedra for three percussion players, timpani and orchestra premiered in Europe by Amadinda Percussion Quartet and The Hungarian Philharmonic Orchestra under Zoltan Kocsis; and the American premiere of the same work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Kroumata percussion ensemble, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performed the avant-premiere of her new opera Unicamente la Verdad in August 2008, under Carmen Helena Téllez; and Kroumata presented the Swedish premiere of Altar de Piedra with the Mälmo Symphony in 2009.
Ortiz has been honored with the Civitella Ranieri Artistic Residency; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; the Fulbright Fellowship; the Distinción Universidad Nacional; the First prize of the Silvestre Revueltas National Chamber Music Competition with her piece Altar de muertos (a work commissioned by the Kronos Quartet); the First Prize at the Alicia Urreta Composition Competition; the Composers Award and the National Artists System Fellowship from the Mexican Council for the Arts and Culture; Banff Center for the Arts Residency; the Inroads Commission, a program of Arts International with funds from the Ford Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation; the Mozart Medal Award for Mexican Theatre and Music as the best composer of 1997; and The Fundación Cultural Bancomer Award.
In 1994 she wrote the music for the choreographic work Errant Manoeuvres performed by the Emma Diamond Dance Company at the Merce Cunnigham Studio in New York and in 1995 she completed the music score for the award winning film Frontierland produced and directed by Rubén Ortiz and Jessie Lerner. In 2000 she returned to film music with the music score for the Mexican film Por la Libre produced by Alta Vista films and directed by Juan Carlos de Llaca.
Born in Mexico City, Ortiz's parents were musicians in the famous folk music ensemble Los Folkloristas founded in 1966 to preserve and record the traditional music of Mexico and Latin America. She trained with the eminent composer Mario Lavista at the National Conservatory of Music and Federico Ibarra at the National University of Mexico. In 1990 she was awarded the British Council Fellowship to study in London with Robert Saxton at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 1992 she received the University of Mexico Scholarship to complete Ph.D. studies in electroacoustic music composition with Simon Emmerson at The City University in London. She currently teaches composition at the Mexican University of Mexico City and as visiting faculty at Indiana University.